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Street Fighter V
(Capcom for PS4)
By Mike Delano
Gamers have been pretty angry during the past couple of years about games releasing in seemingly unfinished states. Some release without big features that will be patched in later, while others, like Star Wars Battlefront, are so bare bones that it almost requires purchasing the additional $40 Season Pass to feel like you're getting a complete experience.
Street Fighter V certainly sits among these incomplete games. On its release day last month, it was missing a ton of features, from a promised Story Mode to any meaningful training challenges to even Arcade mode (the simple, expected string of matches against AI opponents that has come standard in every fighting game since the dawn of time). All of these features are planned to arrive in the next six months, as well as six new characters on a monthly basis.
It's not cool or acceptable that something so half-assed was pushed out onto store shelves, but dammit, when you play the game you've just gotta shake your head and give them a pass. It's that good. The beating heart of any fighting game is one-on-one competition against a human opponent, and in that moment, SFV is sublime. It controls — as always — like a dream, with every kick, punch, fireball and piledriver feeling completely satisfying. It's balanced perfectly, with every victory or defeat attributable only to your skill, not cheap tricks or sloppy programming. The updated fighting system fits perfectly, with the new V-Trigger/V-Skill/Critical Arts triumvirate making fights faster, more intense and more interesting as you try to figure out how best to overwhelm your opponent without leaving yourself open to punishment.
One instance in which the game's incomplete status works to its favor is its "small" 16-character roster. Fighting game fans used to bloated rosters of 40+ may complain, but not having a huge selection at the start is a good thing — you need to spend at least a little time playing all 16 characters so that, once you decide on the few you'll play regularly, you can better anticipate what other players are thinking when they challenge you using the remaining characters.
And with this lineup, there's a lot to learn: old characters feel new (Chun-Li and Ken feel totally different), returning characters need to be relearned (is there anyone who doesn't need a refresher on how to use Karin and R. Mika effectively?) and the four new characters are an unexplored frontier (Laura and Necali have the best designs, while Rashid and F.A.N.G are more interesting to use).
Since the core fighting experience is so strong, it's easy to recommend Street Fighter V now, even though it will undoubtedly be far more robust and complete in six months. It pains me to forgive the higher-ups for rushing out an incomplete product (and one that didn't even function online reliably during its first week), but the Mona Lisa is still the Mona Lisa even if it's inside a shitty frame, and SFV is the new fighting game standard.